Chinese language and varieties in the United States
|^a Foreign-born population only|
Chinese languages, mostly Cantonese, are collectively the third most-spoken language in the United States, and are mostly spoken within Chinese-American populations and by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, especially in California and New York. Over 2 million Americans speak varieties of Chinese, with Mandarin becoming increasingly common due to immigration from mainland China and to some extent Taiwan. Despite being called dialects or varieties, Cantonese, Taishanese, and Mandarin etc. are not mutually intelligible. When asked census forms and surveys, respondents will only answer with “Chinese.”
According to data reported on the 2000 US Census long-form, 259,750 people spoke “Cantonese,” with 58.62% percent residing in California and the next most with 16.19% in New York. The actual number of Cantonese speakers was probably higher. During the 1982-83 school year, 29,908 students in California were reported to be using Cantonese as their primary home language. Approximately 16,000 of these students were identified as limited English proficient (LEP).
According to data reported on the 2000 US Census long-form, 84,590 people spoke “Formosan.” The county with the most “Formosan” speakers was Los Angeles County with 21,990 (0.250% of the county’s population) followed by Orange County with 5,855 (0.222% of the county’s population). The county with the highest percentage of “Formosan” speakers was Calhoun County, Texas at 0.845% (160 speakers) followed by Fort Bend County, Texas at 0.286% (935 speakers) and Los Angeles County, California. According to data collected during 2008-2012 by the American Community Survey, 77,630 people aged 5 and older spoke “Formosan” at home.
In New York City, although Standard Mandarin Chinese is spoken as a native language among only ten percent of Chinese speakers, it is used as a secondary dialect and is replacing Cantonese as their lingua franca. In addition, immigration from Fujian, particularly Fuzhou is bringing an increasingly large number of Eastern Min speakers. Wu varieties like Shanghainese and Suzhounese, and the mutually unintelligible Wenzhounese are now spoken by a minority of recent Chinese immigrants hailing from Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai.
Although Chinese Americans grow up learning English, some teach their children Chinese for a variety of reasons including preservation of an ancient civilization, preservation of a unique identity, pride in their cultural ancestry, desire for easy communication with them and other relatives, and the perception that Chinese will be a useful language as China’s economic strength increases. Cantonese, historically the language of most Chinese immigrants, was the third most widely spoken non-English language in the United States in 2004.[page needed] Many Chinese schools have been established to accomplish these goals. Most of them have classes only once a week on the weekends, however especially in the past there have been schools that met every day after normal school.
A 2006 survey by the Modern Language Association found that Chinese accounted for 3% of foreign language class enrollment in the United States, making it the seventh most commonly learned foreign languages in the United States. Most Chinese as foreign language classes teach simplified characters and Standard Mandarin Chinese.
About 40% of all Chinese-speakers in the United States live in California.
|Language||Number of speakers||Margin of error||Speak English less than “very well”||Margin of error|
|Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin, other Chinese languages)||2,896,766||13,255||1,600,886||8,527|
|Kan, Hsiang||50||65||Data withheld to avoid disclosure.||Data withheld to avoid disclosure.|
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